Travelogue Day 5

Drive: Chapel Hill to Raleigh-Durham Airport, NC (19 miles)
Total Miles: 835

Fly: Raleigh-Durham Airport, NC to Grand Rapids, MI (663 miles)
Total Miles: 1498

I flew to Grand Rapids, Michigan for a business meeting. This is my first trip after the liquid ban. I, like many other of my fellow passengers, had to either check my luggage or not travel with toothpaste, shampoo, etc. This adds a little more hassle to the arrival (standing around waiting for luggage), but makes the boarding of a plane much easier. There just was not as many people cramming oversized rolling luggage into the overhead compartments. On each flight it was a breeze putting my laptop case in the bin.

Due to the foiled terrorist attacks in the UK, the terrorist level has escalated from yellow to orange. This is defined on the airport sign as a high probability of a terrorist attack. While that may be true in a general sense, it really is not true in every airport where they have posted these signs.

Over the weekend, several suspected terrorists were arrested and it was thought they had targeted the bridge connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. These Palestinian-Americans were from Texas and were riding around Michigan buying up pre-paid cell phones (there were reportedly 1000 in their van), and had pictures and video of the bridge.

All of these events made it an interesting time to fly to Michigan.

Seeing in Beautiful, Precise Pictures by Temple Grandin

from the NPR Series This I Believe:

Temple Grandin is an associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She has designed one-third of all livestock facilities in the United States with the goal of decreasing the fear and pain animals experience in the slaughter process.

Because I have autism, I live by concrete rules instead of abstract beliefs. And because I have autism, I think in pictures and sounds. I don’t have the ability to process abstract thought the way that you do. Here’s how my brain works: It’s like the search engine Google for images. If you say the word “love” to me, I’ll surf the Internet inside my brain. Then, a series of images pops into my head. What I’ll see, for example, is a picture of a mother horse with a foal, or I think of “Herbie the Lovebug,” scenes from the movie Love Story or the Beatles song, “Love, love, love…”

When I was a child, my parents taught me the difference between good and bad behavior by showing me specific examples. My mother told me that you don’t hit other kids because you would not like it if they hit you. That makes sense. But if my mother told me to be “nice” to someone, it was too vague for me to comprehend. But if she said that being nice meant delivering daffodils to a next-door neighbor, that I could understand.

I built a library of experiences that I could refer to when I was in a new situation. That way, when I confronted something unfamiliar, I could draw on the information in my homemade library and come up with an appropriate way to behave in a new and strange situation.

When I was in my 20s, I thought a lot about the meaning of life. At the time, I was getting started in my career, designing more humane facilities for animals at ranches and slaughterhouses. Many people would think that to even work at a slaughterhouse would be inhumane, but they forget that every human and animal eventually dies. In my mind, I had a picture of a way to make that dying as peaceful as possible.

I believe that doing practical things can make the world a better place. And one of the features of being autistic is that I’m good at synthesizing lots of information and creating systems out of it.

When I was creating my first corral back in the 1970s, I went to 50 different feedlots and ranches in Arizona and Texas and helped them work cattle. In my mind, I cataloged the parts of each facility that worked effectively and assembled them into an ideal new system. I get great satisfaction when a rancher tells me that my corral design helps cattle move through it quietly and easily. When cattle stay calm, it means they are not scared. And that makes me feel I’ve accomplished something important.

Some people might think if I could snap my fingers I’d choose to be “normal.” But I wouldn’t want to give up my ability to see in beautiful, precise pictures. I believe in them.

Travelogue Day 4

After sleeping late again, we had breakfast on the deck. It is great to be staying in an oceanfront condo. Seeing the crashing waves and feeling the ocean breezes are great additions to the morning menu.

The kids and I went out to the beach and played in the surf until lunchtime. It was high tide and the waves were very rough with a strong undertow. I told Peter the story from Garp about the Undertoad. We put up the boogie boards after Grace rolled over riding her brand new board. Peter was not interested in riding at all.

I stayed close to both of them, and when they got knocked down, I helped them up. After a little while Meg came out and we divided up and each of us watched a kid. She described her position as standing between Peter and Spain.

Grace spent a lot of time playing in the sand instead of playing in the water. When she was in the water, she yelled and cackled and generally carried on, since no one could hear her. The constant surf was pretty loud. She also referred to the water as chocolate milk, since it looks brown near the shore due to the sand.

After a restful afternoon of Animaniacs and naps, Grace and I went back out to the beach. The tide had gone out, and the water was calm. It was like a different beach.

For dinner, we went to Michael’s Seafood where I had peel ‘n’ eat shrimp with Old Bay seasoning. Yum. Peter also forced me to share his Death by Chocolate dessert. After dinner I hit the road and headed for home.

Drive: Kure Beach to Chapel Hill, NC (174 miles)
Total Miles: 816

As I got on I-40 at its beginning, there is a sign saying “Barstow, California 2554 miles. Glad I wasn’t going that far.

Travelogue Day 3

Drive: Wilmington to Kure Beach, NC (11 miles)
Total Miles: 642

We woke up to a cloudy and rainy day. The original plan was to go to the beach in the morning to get a extra day at the beach before we checked in the condo. We wound up swimming in the hotel pool, going shopping at Walmart and eating lunch at McDaniels Dairy. By the time we were done with all of the that, we could check in to our condo.

There was a light drizzle, so we were not planning going out to the beach. The kids went down to the water and put their feet in. Somehow, I managed to keep them for getting their clothes soaked.

That night Meg and I went on a Haunted Pub Tour of Wilmington. First we ate dinner at a German restaurant, where she had a wurst platter and I had veal schnitzel. Both were delicious. On the tour we went to four bars: Paddy’s Hollow, Orton’s Pool Hall/Longstreet’s, The Liquid Room and The Blue Post. We heard about a theory of Jack the Ripper in Wilmington, a hotel fire, mysterious happenings captured on video and a large bar proprietress named Gallus Meg.

The tour was led by a local actor named John. He did a great job telling the stories, but it seemed like the stories were more attached to the locations where the bars were, rather than the bars themselves.

Travelogue Day 2

Drive: Asheville to Weaverville, NC (8 miles)
Total Miles: 238

We got up this morning in Asheville and went to the photographer’s studio (garage) in Weaverville to finish our hardware photo shoot. Today’s project was to shoot a studio shot of a craftsman working with a variety of tools, making hardware. This image will be used on the packaging, brochures, catalogs, web site and maybe even in ads. We need to show the connect of the product to the design and craftsmanship of artisans who have created the legacy of the company for over 100 years.

Drive: Weaverville to Chapel Hill, NC (230 miles)
Total Miles: 468

We left around lunchtime and had an uneventful drive home. Well, except for the rather large blind spot in our rented Jeep Liberty that almost caused me to merge into a Suburban. Luckily, there was enough room for the Suburban to move out of my way, while the driver was honking at me. I swerved a little bit moving back to my lane and everything was fine.

After dropping off the rental car, I picked up the kids from their last day of camp and we got ready to leave for the beach. Pizza for dinner, and some packing, before we headed off for the last trip of the day.

Meg drove in her car with the kids and I drove myself. We needed both cars since I would be leaving on Sunday. We were headed to hotel in Wilmington, so we would be at the beach in the morning.

Drive: Chapel Hill to Wilmington, NC (163 miles)
Total Miles: 631

Travelogue Day 1

Over the next 10 days I will be taking 4 back-to-back trips. I will be writing about these trips with photos and links as available. I will also track my mileage along the way. 3 of these trips are cars trips, while the fourth is an airline trip.

I am going to Asheville, NC, Kure Beach, NC (twice) and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Since I recently started a new job, I have limited vacation time. Meg and the kids are going to the beach for a week, while I am joining them on either end. In this same time period, I have 2 work related trips to Asheville and Grand Rapids.

There may be times that I am without an internet connection, so I will be writing this off-line and posing it when I get a chance.

Ride: Chapel Hill to Asheville, NC (230 miles)
Total Miles: 230

We left Chapel Hill around 6am to go to Asheville for a photo shoot. We needed to shoot several doors on high end homes in the area, some with new hardware, and some with existing hardware that will be Photoshopped out.

Things went well, and pretty uneventful. We got the shots we needed, but it was nearly 90 degrees. That’s pretty hot for the mountains.

We ate dinner at a trendy restaurant downtown called Table. I had seared tuna that was delicious. There menu changes daily, utilizing many local ingredients including heirloom tomatoes and apples.

How Many Rolls?

Sometimes I wonder where some companies draw the line between product development and marketing, and who takes the lead. Obviously every consumer products companies is trying to gain shelf space and sell more product. The marketing folks have a hand in helping to guide that process, but I think the Charmin folks have gone too far.

We have a package of toilet paper that boasts 8 Giants Rolls (8 Rollos Gigantes! in smaller print). Equal to 20 Regular Rolls* (Rollos Regulares). We follow the asterisk to the back of the package where there is a “Charmin Roll Size Guide,” or what I would call a conversion chart.

1 Regular Roll (Rollo Regular) (100 sheets) = 1 Regular Roll
1 Big Roll (Rollo Grande) (200 sheets) = 2 Regular Rolls
1 Giant Roll (Rollo Gigante) (250 sheets) = 2 1/2 Regular Rolls
1 Mega Roll (no translation) (400 sheets) = 4 Regular Rolls

When my toilet paper package has a conversion chart to parse the marketing message and understand how much toilet paper I am buying, that sounds like marketing is steering the ship. Since this is a Proctor and Gamble product, that is definitely true. But they have created a package where it is virtually impossible to figure out how much toilet paper you are even buying, let alone how much it costs compared to others on the shelf, and you wind up overpaying for the Giant Rolls thinking a larger size is a better value and that’s not always true. Sometimes confusion can drive a purchase decision and sometimes it can drive the consumer away.

Frappachino, sir?

In its latest same store retail sales numbers, Starbucks announced that its sales were not as high as anticipated. They attributed this to the increased sales of Frappachinos due to the high temperatures across the country. Since the Frappachino requires a blender, it takes longer to make, thus causing Starbucks long lines to get longer. Customers at the back of the line get frustrated and go somewhere else for their morning java fix.

Bizarre corporate spin or subtle marketing of Frappachinos? Every article mentioning the sales numbers mentioned Frappachinos as the cause for the reduced numbers. You decide.